Manatee lost five fumbles, then had to withstand a late Brandon rally to escape E.F. McLean Stadium with a 18-12 win Friday night.
Manatee (4-0, 1-0 in Class 5A, District 7), had lost six fumbles entering Friday's game, and almost matched that number on the slippery Brandon field.
"Unbelievable," Manatee coach Joe Kinnan said of the turnovers. "I knew that if our offense didn't give the game away that we would win. Well, they tried."
With Brandon trailing 18-6, Manatee had a first-and-10 at its own 5-yard line. Quarterback Willie Taggart fumbled the snap, and Nathan Donaldson came up with the ball for the Eagles (1-3, 0-2). Three plays later, Troy Schwartz scored from the 1-yard line.
Jason Maurer's extra-point attempt sailed wide, and Brandon trailed 18-12 with 1:46 left in the game.
The Eagles then tried an onside kick, which was recovered by Bryan Mann, giving Brandon possession on Manatee's 43. On the first play, Brick threw a long pass to Eric Holloway, but the receiver was interfered with by Troy Wortham, giving the Eagles a first down on the 27-yard line.
Holloway caught another pass for 16 yards, and Brick picked up another 5, setting up a second-and-5 from the Hurricanes' 6-yard line. Brick had Kevin Bass alone in the end zone, but his pass was high and hard, and slipped through the tight end's hands. His next two passes also fell incomplete, and Manatee held on for the win.
"I think that pass to Kevin was tipped at the line," Brandon coach Larry Bass said. "At halftime, it was 6-0 and we felt like we were on schedule. Their kickoff return put us in a hole, but it went back and forth the entire game."
The Hurricanes, ranked No. 9 in the Class 5A state poll, opened the scoring in the first quarter. After a 9-yard Brick punt, Manatee took over at the Eagles' 30-yard line. Shevin Wiggins did most of the work on the drive, before Chris Hill scored on a 12-yard run.
On the extra-point attempt, the snap sailed over the holder's head, and kicker Robert Stevenson's pass fell incomplete.
Brandon shut down the Hurricanes in the second quarter, but Wiggins opened the second half with a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Wiggins, who finished with 116 yards rushing, then was stopped short on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, and Manatee led 12-0.
After holding Brandon to three plays on the ensuing series, Manatee mounted an 11-play, 68-yard drive for another score. The big play came when Wiggins burst through Brandon's defensive front and rambled for a 32-yard gain. Seven plays later, Wiggins carried the ball in from 1-yard out. Again, the extra-point failed, and Manatee led 18-0 with 4:27 left in the third quarter.